Tommy Walker: Pursuing the Way of Peace

When you’re in L.A., there are many outstanding churches you might want to visit on a Sunday morning, but when we were there last week with our oldest son’s family, Alan’s first choice was to visit Christian Assembly, where Tommy Walker is the worship leader. Over the course of his career, Tommy has composed 85+ songs, recorded 25 albums, and has 247 recordings listed on Song Select. His works include many songs that our family band played over the years, such as He Knows My Name, That’s Why We Praise Him, Joy, Joy, Joy, and Sweet, Sweet Presence of Jesus.
Tommy is an outstanding musician and has worked with national leaders like Franklin Graham, Rick Warren, and Promise Keepers, but what Alan loves best is not Tommy’s great giftedness, but his amazing humility. Although he’s been offered deals by recording companies and publishers, he has intentionally pursued a more quiet path with his wife Robin, continuing his ministry as the worship leader at the same church for twenty-eight years, where his four children have grown up. His ambition is to glorify God, not himself, and that won’t catapult you into Hollywood fame and fortune. However, I believe Tommy Walker is spiritually rich, and he’s definitely famous in the eyes of those of us who’ve been blessed by his ministry!
       By the way, the message (by Pastor Tom Hughs) was also excellent. He’s working through a series called Anxious for Nothing http://cachurch.com/sermons/october-20-21-weekend-services/ and last week offered this advice for keeping CALM in the midst of crisis:
C: Celebrate God’s goodness and blessings
A: Ask God for help
L: Leave your concerns with God
M: Meditate on God and his Word
      Are you anxious today? If you’ve got a few minutes, please allow yourself to be calmed by Tommy Walker singing “When I Don’t Know What to Do.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMXEwwhF6pg

“Lord I surrender all
To Your strong and faithful hand
In everything I will give thanks to You
I’ll just trust Your perfect plan

When I don’t know what to do
I’ll lift my hands
When I don’t know what to say
I’ll speak Your praise
When I don’t know where to go
I’ll run to Your throne
When I don’t know what to think
I’ll stand on Your truth
When I don’t know what to do

Lord I surrender all
Though I’ll never understand
All the mysteries around me
I’ll just trust Your perfect plan

Bridge

As I bow my knee
Send Your perfect peace
Send Your perfect peace Lord
As I lift my hands
Let Your healing come
Let Your healing come to me”

“Strong Christians are not strong people, they just know where to run.” —Tommy Walker

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

P.S.—I didn’t think of this when I first wrote the article, but studying Tommy Walker’s life makes me believe he has had to resist Satan’s temptations to “bow down and worship” him. (See Meditating on the Commands of Christ 2). I’ve never had to give up fame or fortune (because I’ve never had either), but Tommy seems to have avoided a lot of the common traps that ruin the lives of many gifted people!

Meditation on the Commands of Christ (2): Get Thee Behind Me, Satan

                                    Matthew 4:1-22; Luke 4: 1-15In the accounts of Jesus, immediately after his baptism, he was led “up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Matthew 4:1). How perfectly appropriate that Jesus first would teach us to “suffer it to be so now” (Matthew 3:15), and then immediately endure suffering (forty days of fasting in the wilderness) and temptation (which is what happens to all of us when we’re deprived of what we need). What were the temptations? How did Jesus respond? What can we learn for ourselves when we face temptation?In a nutshell, Satan’s temptations were all designed to see if he could get Jesus to act on his own behalf instead of in obedience to God the Father. The temptations were simple and universal: 1. Use personal power to provide for personal needs (rather than relying on God’s direction and timing)  2. Demand God’s protection (rather than waiting for God’s plan)  3. Worship Satan (who is behind anything that distracts us from worshiping God) in order to obtain wealth and power. After each temptation, Jesus responded with Scripture that explained why the suggestion was wrong, and then he concluded by saying, “Get thee behind me, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Luke 4:8). I pondered whether or not we could claim such a command for ourselves, since we read in Jude 1:9, “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.” If God’s mighty archangel didn’t dare to rebuke Satan, should we? We are definitely counseled to “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you“(James 4:7) and to “take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13). I understand that it’s possible to resist and withstand, but can we command?

I believe the answer is yes, but only in imitation of Jesus, who is our perfect example. Notice that Jesus was “full of the Holy Ghost” (Luke 4:1), was “led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Matthew 4:1), and after the temptation was over, “returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee” (Luke 4:14). God wants us to live our lives walking in the Spirit, doing what God asks, and then we will be able to discern right from wrong, resist temptation, and tell Satan to get out of our way!

But, what if we are not children of God by faith or have wandered away from God and are in a mess? Can we still command Satan to “get thee hence” (Matthew 4:10) as Jesus did? Based on Luke 11:14-26, I believe we’d be setting ourselves up for failure, because the power of evil is greater than our personal power. However, the good news is that God’s power is greater than evil. He is also merciful and invites us to “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (1 Peter 5:6-9). If we acknowledge our sins and cry out in faith to Jesus for help, He (and He alone) has the power to save us and make us capable—through his Spirit— of overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:21).

One last thought, and perhaps my favorite. When we are facing temptation, depression, anxiety, or despair . . . when we feel the spirit of evil and darkness obscuring our way, let’s turn to the comforting words of Psalm 27:1, “The LORD is my light, and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; ow whom shall I be afraid?” The whole psalm is wonderful, but notice verse eight especially, “When thou saidst, Seek my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.” In these situations, I believe we can say with confidence, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” and turn our faces to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, our LORD and master, who loves us and will rescue us.

Bible Passages Where This Command is Found:
Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-14

Psalm 27

1The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.

Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.

One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.

For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.

When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.

Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.

10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.

11 Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.

12 Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.

13 I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.

 

Marilyn’s Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

Marilyn has been a dear friend since junior high school days, which is about 56 years! (This photo was taken at our 50th high school class reunion last summer.)After college she married Lorin, and they’ve been living in Texas ever since, so she’s become a fan and able cook of Mexican food. While they were visiting a few weeks ago, I discovered that Marilyn has developed a recipe for chicken enchiladas that’s been written up in their church cookbook and is a perennial, always-eaten favorite when she brings it to potlucks. I asked if she’d be willing to share it with us, and she is! Thank you, Marilyn!

Marilyn’s Chicken Enchiladas

Two 10 oz cans chicken breasts in water, drained – I like Sweet Sue Chicken brand white breast meat
2 cans Cream of Chicken soup
Two 10 oz cans mild green chili enchilada sauce
One 4 oz can chopped green chilies
½ c mayonnaise
½ c sour cream
1-2 c shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
12 flour tortillas
Tortilla warmer
Parchment paper
       Break drained chicken into smaller pieces. Add one can of soup, green chilies, mayonnaise, and sour cream. Blend well. In a separate bowl, blend one can of soup and the two cans of green enchilada sauce for the topping. Line tortilla warmer with parchment paper, place a few of the tortillas in warmer, and heat for 30-40 seconds in microwave. Continue heating until all twelve are heated. Pour about 1/3 of topping into a 9 x 12 inch pan and spread evenly. Fill each tortilla with about 1/3 cup of mixture, roll, and put into pan. When all 12 are filled*, pour remaining topping over enchiladas making sure to completely cover them. Bake uncovered in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Turn off oven, top enchiladas with cheese and return to oven for about 5 minutes to allow cheese to melt.
*You will have some filling left.
       I have found it better to not heat all of the tortillas at once, so I divide them up and heat in microwave 30-40 seconds. They will be hot! Also, when I place them in the pan, I make sure that some of the sauce is between them. Otherwise they will tend to stick together. If rolled fairly tightly, all 12 should fit in a 9 x 12, but if there is more filling and they are not tightly rolled, you may have to put the rest in an 8 x 8 pan. The last time I made them I used up all the filling, but in the past I have had some left over. And I make it easy by using the canned chicken breast, but you could use a rotisserie chicken if you prefer.        Marilyn says she’s never taken a photo of it, so I ordered chicken tortillas last week at our favorite Mexican restaurant, El Burrito. They serve them with refried beans and a salad crowned with sour cream and guacamole. Hope you enjoy them, however you serve them. I’m planning to try them next time my son-in-law (who has some Mexican heritage) comes to visit, and I’m betting he loves them!  🙂
(If you want a recipe for fresh guacamole, I wrote about it here:

 For through him [Jesus] we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” (Ephesians 2:18-20. Isn’t it wonderful that through Jesus we have equal access to God the Father and can all become part of God’s family regardless of our ethnicity? May we celebrate our unity and learn to love others the way God loves us!)

 

 

Lessons from Fossil Rim

Alan and I have flown through the DFW (Dallas, Fort Worth Texas) airport a number of times, and once we even had to spend the night, although we didn’t know where to go or what to do, so we pretty much “wasted” our day. However, my friend Marilyn (who’s also going to share her recipe for chicken enchiladas this Saturday), recommended one excellent opportunity for fun and learning if you’re in the area. Here’s what she shared with me:                                    Becoming a grandparent is a gift from God because you get a second chance to relive old memories and pour your life into your grandchildren. We are blessed to have our children living fairly close to us, and our two youngest granddaughters are home schooled, which presents new adventures for us.

Recently we went on a home school cooperative field trip to Fossil Rim, a 1,800- acre conservatory protecting 1,100 animals on open meadows near Glen Rose, Texas (just an hour or so from Ft. Worth or Dallas). Not only can you observe these animals, you can interact with some of them as well!                                   Fossil Rim was named for the terrain which is an upheaval of land that is the beginning of the Texas Hill Country.  Limestone outcropping and caves may be seen in the area. Many fossils can be found indicating total flooding. My granddaughter picked up a rock in the picnic area that was a conglomerate of aquatic fossils and reminded me of Genesis 7:19, “And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.” When we first arrived, there was a presentation on the importance of being good stewards by Mark, a former missionary kid and missionary, using a creation Jinga (though he didn’t use the term creation). Blocks were stacked in the order of creation starting with the appearance of the land and ending with the creation of man. Genesis 1:9, “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.” Genesis 2:7, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Mark then talked about stewardship, and as the children were chosen to pull boxes from the stack, Mark illustrated the imbalance that occurs when man does not care for what he has been given. Eventually the stack collapsed. Genesis 2:15, “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.”  Next was a discussion of how an animal is brought to the park vet for examination. There are three methods: 1) Place food inside a trailer to entice the animal to enter, 2) Use a snare, or 3) Tranquilize the animal, which is only used as a last resort. We were taught how to use a blow pipe and had fun practicing our skill on a cardboard zebra.  After the teaching time, we boarded the tour bus where our guide told us, “The bus is to the animals what an ice cream truck is to children!” He was so right. The giraffes were the first to see us and approach. Did you know that because of their weight, the giraffe’s gait is to advance front and back legs on one side and then the other in unison?  That was news to me! I also learned that giraffes have no upper teeth. They took the pellets from our hands with their soft lips. They have whiskers on their chins and long beautiful eyelashes. We were told that their favorite food is the leaves from the acacia tree, which also has thorns. The whiskers and eyelashes serve to protect their mouths and eyes from the thorns. The eyelashes also shield their eyes from the sun. Their tongues can be up to 20 inches in length.  The giraffes were tall enough to “come into” the tour bus. When they took the pellets from our hands we felt their soft lips and bristly whiskers. The biggest one, a male named Mosey, was able to reach beyond me all the way over to my hubby on the far side of the bus.  All along our route, the bus continued to be an attraction to the animals. This aoudad sheep seemed to be smiling at us.  Fallow deer hunted for the pellets that were thrown. Fallow deer come in a range of color from white to dark brown, and many are spotted like white-tail deer fawns.  The proud blackbuck was too busy guarding his harem and territory to come to the bus,                   and the mountain bongo stayed in the shelter of the trees.                                                   But the gemsbok,                                                                 addax, and a Hartmann’s mountain zebra came to get their share of pellets. Other species came to the bus, and still others were in restricted areas that we could see but not feed. I couldn’t help but marvel at the variety of God’s creation and in considering the animals’ ability to approach the bus unafraid made me ponder the bond that God designed between man and animals before the fall. Genesis 2:19b, 20a explains: “and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field.

  “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” Genesis 1:31a

Let It Be

As I write this morning, a tree service is removing six gorgeous, healthy maple trees from the front of our home. The whirring and whining of saws and chippers is grating.  The towering trees were here long before my family arrived twenty-five years ago, and to my way of thinking, they provide shade, privacy, and beauty. However, my husband sees them as a maintenance challenge and potential threat to the safety of the new addition he’s having built on our home,             so he overruled my protests and condemned the trees to death.  😦 It’s autumn, and leaves are falling, but I also noticed flecks of white drifting down on the balcony. I thought they were sympathetic snowflakes, but worse: they are tiny specks of the trees’ flesh and bones, silent reminders of the slaughter.  Sigh. I couldn’t help but notice a quiet prodding to practice the first lesson I learned from studying the commands of Jesus: “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.” John obeyed Jesus, and I must “suffer” the mystery of losing these beloved trees. This is a very small loss compared to what many people are enduring today . . . and to what I’m sure I will endure as I continue to live in a world where death is the inevitable end of life on this planet. Nevertheless, I am feeling sad and struggling to “suffer it to be so now” with grace and patience.

The consolation to me is in knowing that “for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” That is the good news! In bearing up patiently under what we cannot change, we are participating in the fulfillment of righteousness. I always use the King James Version (KJV) first, but I also read other translations in trying to understand passages of scripture, and I noticed that both the ESV (English Standard Version) and NIV (New International Version) translate Matthew 3:15 as “Let it be so now.” I was never a Beatles fan, but somewhere in the back of my brain I can hear the words “let it be” echoing solemnly beneath the grinding sound of trees becoming “Timber.” If Mother Mary shared those words of wisdom with the Beatles, she heard them first from Jesus!

“God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

“Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.”

Amen. (—Reinhold Niebuhr)

 

Meditating on The Commands of Christ (1): The Mystery of Suffering

Do you know what Jesus’ first commandment was, as recorded in the New Testament? Want to take a guess? I didn’t have a clue until last summer when I started studying for this series, so I was surprised to discover that Jesus’ very first commandment was given to John at the time of Jesus’ baptism: “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). In a world of suffering, the first thing Jesus tells anyone to do is “suffer!” Why?

The baptism of Jesus Christ is so important that it is included in all for gospel accounts, and for  years I’ve puzzled over the meaning of the second half of this verse: “for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” John was baptizing people as a sign of their “repentance for the remission of their sins” (Mark 1:4). Jesus, as sinless, did not need to be baptized, and so it was confusing to John (and to me) that Jesus would come to be baptized. John tried to stop him, saying that Jesus should baptize John rather than asking John to baptize Jesus! This is the point at which Jesus responded to him with, “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Somehow, in the wisdom of God, it was necessary for Jesus to identify with all humans, even to the point of being baptized. (What an example for us to follow!) And, in order for both of them (“us”) “to fulfill all righteousness,” John needed to obey Jesus.

Like a three-year-old, I was stumbling over the “why” and failing to surrender to the “what.” God wants us to “suffer,” to bear up. Allow. Endure. Submit. For all of us, even when we are trying our hardest to do what is right and good (as John the Baptist was doing), we may find that we do not always understand “why” things happen. However, in the midst of our confusion, Jesus wants us to “suffer” it all…to allow what He ordains, bearing up under the mysterious pains of life and responding with faith, trust, and obedience.

Bible Passages Where This Command is Found:
Matthew 3:1-17;  Mark 1: 1-11,  Luke 3:1-22

P.S.—As a prophecy about the Messiah, I read this morning from Jeremiah 23:5-6: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.” Jesus fulfilled all righteousness for us (which included his baptism), and we can claim this righteousness through faith in him!

 

 

Autumn Fruit Crisps for Chilly Weather

On our recent cruise of the North Sea, we had incredible dessert options  with every meal, but Alan and I discovered that among our favorites  were their array of crisps: apple, cherry, peach, rhubarb…almost every night some type of crisp was on the dinner menu, and I’m guessing because the chef must have discovered that crisps were perennial favorites for everyone.  Before the cruise was over, I think we’d tried every variety they offered,
and we were never disappointed! Therefore, since returning home, I’ve been on an fruit crisp kick and want to pass along my recipe “just in case” you might be needing a warm, fruity dessert!

Warm Apple Crisp for Chilly Weather

Preheat the oven to 350°F.6 large pie apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into small chunks
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup flour
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground (powdered) cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup chopped, salted pecans (totally optional, and you can use any type of nuts you like, but if you don’t use salted nuts, add 1/2  teaspoon salt   Arrange fruit in the bottom of a 9X12″ baking pan. You could also use peaches, plums, pears, cherries, rhubarb, any type of berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc.) Just 6 cups of fruit. In a separate bowl, add all the ingredients together and stir until well mixed. Distribute this mixture evenly over all the fruit in the pan Bake in the oven for 55 minutes at 350°F.  However, if you have really wet fruit, like plums, mushy peaches, or berries, it might require an hour or even a little more.  It’s done when the crumbly crust is golden and the fruit is bubbly but sticky.      Serve warm, and definitely add some whipped cream or ice cream on top. (I failed to bring ice cream along for our Sunday school potluck and was sorry for it, because it’s not as super yummy without something melty on top!)

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.” (Proverbs 11:30)

Wedding Joys: The Soloist Who’s No Longer Solo!

Susan and Cindi have been two of my closest friends and prayer partners for the past 20 years, and through the years, we’ve watched with joy as our kids have grown up. Sarah (pictured above) was also in our Wednesday night Bible study group from the time she was a child and participated faithfully in our “Second Sunday” music ministry.
One by one many of our kids (now in their 20’s and 30’s) have married and started families of their own, but for some totally mysterious reason, Sarah never found her special someone, even though she was bright, lovely, and extremely gifted. I have a dear friend who was a bridesmaid multiple times before she became a bride (at age 42), so Susan, Cindi, and I continued to pray and hope for the right spouse! However, until recently, Sarah had been the pianist and soloist at ??? nearly a hundred weddings . . . but still living solo. 😦All that changed recently, and I was the happy videographer for the event! Because my two youngest are also still single, as well as many young adults who read this blog, I asked Sarah and Kyle if I could share a little bit of their journey for the encouragement of those of us who are still hoping, looking, waiting, and praying (for ourselves or our loved ones).

Here is what Sarah shared:   “Before Kyle and I met…

I had prayed and hoped for years that I would find a godly man to marry, but it wasn’t happening. I tried online dating many times and went on a few dates, but it always ended as a closed door, including some dangerous situations. It became somewhat of an addiction. I battled major insecurity, especially being in my 30’s and not yet pursued. Every time I was feeling that insecurity or loneliness, I would pop on a dating site, even if it was just to talk with a man. But it was only leaving me empty. There was a man from Chicago I dated for a couple months but I did not have peace. I said good bye to him on my 32nd birthday and it was the best thing I could’ve done even though I truly thought I would be single the rest of my life. There was a strange feeling of contentment and acceptance though. Surrender. If God wasn’t opening the door for me with all these men online, then I didn’t want to make it happen on my own and wind up in an awful situation. In all this I was in a BSF [Bible Study Fellowship] group that really was healing and challenging and drawing me closer to Jesus. BSF was not at Impact though [Sarah’s church], and after a year’s study, I went back to a life group with Impact so that I didn’t get disconnected there. That’s where Kyle came two months later.”

Meanwhile, this is what was happening in Kyle’s life: “Before Sarah and I met…

I was in a previous relationship with another woman. We were engaged to be married, but that soon would end due to the toxic/unhealthy relationship it was turning out to be. It was evident that God was not FIRST in my life let alone in my relationship with this woman. I believe He was attempting to grab my attention and save me from the hurt and pain I was spiraling toward. Through God’s grace, reckless love, and fierce pursuit for my life and soul, through my parents and other loved ones – I finally obtained the courage to do what I knew would be extremely hard and painful, yet the BEST thing I could. I had to part ways with her and choose God. So I did. 

I parted ways with her, and re-surrendered my life and future to God, placing Him first in my life, and seeking out His BEST for my life, regardless of what that looked like. I knew that no matter what, it would be much better than the struggles and hurt I was experiencing in that present moment. Following the break up, I had parted ways and even left Impact Church where I had been attending for a solid 3 years just to avoid seeing her. I continued going to church elsewhere but soon realized that my home was there at Impact, and something was missing in my life. I knew that is where I had formed roots, connections, friendships, and could access community at its core. I had to come back, WANTED to come back. So I did. 

I went back to Impact and Lifegroups, hungry for God and what He had in store for me there. Even though I was considered a familiar face to most of the Lifegroup members I was a new face to some. This included Sarah Main. We ended up going around the room introducing ourselves one particular day of Lifegroup to allow for everyone to become acquainted. We were told to state our name and what we did for an occupation. When it was my turn, I stated my name, “Kyle Stoltzfus…” followed by, “I am an automotive technician at M-43 Auto.” Sarah (a bit sarcastic, yet sincerely wondering…) then asked, “Can you fix a coolant leak?” I replied, “Yes, I can.”

I looked at her vehicle briefly after our Lifegroup meeting that day and suggested that she get it taken care of soon as there were other issues to address in addition to the coolant leak. She called my shop, made an appointment and notified me. I knew right away that the scheduled time was too far out given her issues, so I offered my personal assistance. We made a time sooner than the shop appointment and that evening, what could have, and probably should have, taken me only 30 minutes ended up turning into a 2 and a half hour time. We just talked, and talked, and talked, walking away both thinking, I have an interest to know more, and I like talking with the other. So conversation continued, which led to dating, which led to engagement, which led to our marriage, and where we are now…and ALL BY GOD’S GRACE AND WONDROUS LOVE FOR US.” Isn’t that a beautiful love story? At the reception, Kyle’s best friend shared that when he asked Kyle what he loved best about Sarah, Kyle said,” Sarah is the most godly young woman I know, and she always challenges me by her example to be more like Christ.” One of the unusual “hurdles” to overcome was the fact that Sarah is eight years older than Kyle. In this process, she learned that one of her great-grandmothers was eight years older than her grandfather (which had never occurred to her before)! So . . . she had to wait a while for Kyle to grow up! 🙂However, I don’t think you could ever tell there’s an age difference if you didn’t know, and look how beautifully “matched” they are…right down to the reddish glow of their hair! (Those are natural curls and natural color in Sarah’s hair.) Sarah has had a little time to think about her wedding, and she wanted to share:“A couple additional thoughts…

*Both of us came to a place of surrender before we met.
*Neither of us came to life group to ‘Find someone.’

“I have found that just because now that I have a man and am now married, the insecurity doesn’t just go away. That truly only is healed in Jesus, the only Shepherd and Father of my heart. My ultimate husband who was the one taking care of me those years of waiting. No person can fulfill the deepest heart needs. Only Christ. His way is best even when it doesn’t seem like it!”

Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.
(Psalm 27:14)

(All photos from Kyle and Sarah’s wedding, naturally, although the confetti, truck, and kiss-in-the-field shots are not mine, just used by permission.)

 

The Birthday Club Ventures to Shipshewana

This fall’s birthday adventure took us all the way down to the golden corn fields of northern Indiana and a little corner of the world where time seems to have stopped about a hundred and fifty years ago!Shipshewana (affectionately called “Shipshe” by the residents) is home to one of America’s thriving communities of Amish folks.  There are about a third of a million Amish people living in the United States now, mostly in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana.  They are most easily recognized by their head coverings, simple, modest dress  and style of transportation, which is exclusively horse-drawn carriages. (They will not own—but will ride—on other forms of transportation, such as school buses for the children.) If you want to take a tour of the town, they offer horse-drawn buggy rides!Or, you can eat sitting in a buggy at Das Dutchman Essenhaus in the little burg of Middlebury, which is where the girls took me for wonderful, old-fashioned buffet lunch of great country (and Amish-style) cooking!If you go to northern Indiana’s Amish country, I definitely recommend enjoying some of their excellent food, but come hungry, because you will get very full!  🙂

Besides yummy food, there are all sorts of interesting shops to visit,  so save some time to explore their wonderful assortment of homey craft stores. They’re also famous for their simple but sturdy, hand-crafted furniture. Susan’s youngest daughter married a young man whose mom works in Shipshe, so we stopped by for a visit!I always think of Grand Rapids as having a lot of Christian influence, but for those of us who love Scripture, Shipshewana is a shopper’s paradise!

The focus of the afternoon was a visit to Menno-Hof, a museum of Mennonite and Amish history. Menno-Hoff is a warm combination of personally guided segments of the tour and  state-of-the-art audio-visual explanations.  As I have baptist/brethren roots, I felt a real connection with the “anabaptist” movement that eventually spawned the Mennonite and Amish communities, although it wasn’t clear to me from reading the information at the museum if they believe the Gospel…the wonderful good news of salvation by faith alone through Christ, or if they are somehow depending on their humility, modesty, good works, and self-denial and to qualify them for heaven.  (If you are Amish and read this, please feel free to explain the Amish position to us, will you? Do you believe you are saved by being a faithful disciple, or do you pursue God’s holiness as an expression of gratefulness for his salvation?) We couldn’t do the museum justice in less than an hour or two, and it would have been easy to linger for longer, although the girls had more in store yet!One popular myth about the Amish is that if a farmer has an eligible daughter, he paints his front gate blue, which means young men may come ‘a courting! Although this is apparently not really true, The Blue Gate Restaurant capitalizes on the long-standing fable, and they serve wonderful food…such as you could imagine a mother might serve up to a favored prospective beau for her daughter! It was the  perfect place to stop in for our birthday party, and to experience some of their popular peanut butter, custard, and pumpkin pies. Diet alert for sure!! In all, we had another spectacular day, and I can heartily recommend visiting Shipshe sometime if you’re looking for a quiet, cozy place to relax and reflect.    The Amish folks live plain, simple lives, but everything we saw was pleasant!   Even their public restrooms (like the Blue Gate’s) were clean and beautiful!    And, everywhere we looked, there was something to lift our hearts to God!            So, if you’d like to get away from the frenetic pace of life sometime,          consider an afternoon or weekend retreat in an Amish community!

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Meditating on The Commands of Christ

I know the Ten Commandments were given by God Almighty to Moses during the world’s most awesome mountain top experience, and that orthodox Jews honor 613 Mitzvot (laws derived from the Old Testament), but in the New Testament, did Jesus ever command us to do anything?  I mean, did Jesus ever command anybody to do anything?  I always think of Jesus as perfection incarnate, Immanuel, God with us…full of grace and truth, mercy and humility…the first to forgive and the last to condemn…and that doesn’t seem like someone who would be quick to order people around. But, when I started reading through the New Testament to answer that question, I discovered that there are over 400 accounts of Jesus commanding somebody to do something, and I know that in each history lesson there are spiritual truths God wants us to understand and apply to our own lives today, not because he’s bossy, but because he wants us to be good…to learn how to love the Lord above all else and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Ultimately, obeying the commands (or imperatives, if you’d rather) of Christ will not only bring glory to God but make us happy too. So, I’m embarking on a study to meditate my way through the commands of Christ, which I hope to publish each Sunday, and I hope you will join me. Please, please share your thoughts too, so that this study will be as rich and complete as possible!

Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:14-17).